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Galea and Landis cases potential gateways to larger issues

  • Floyd Landis finally admitted he pedaled dirty for years
  • Galea now under indictment in the U.S. and Canada
  • Galea has treated Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez

Doctor Anthony Galea and cyclist Floyd Landis this week continued the steady drippage of the performance enhancer era, otherwise known as the gift that keeps on giving.

Galea was charged formally by the feds, a tidy bookend to the indictments already filed against him in his native Canada.

Landis, meanwhile, finally admitted that he pedaled dirty for years, then took the scorched earth route of saying so did everybody else, including the man with a Tour de France title for each day of the week.

More important, the cases of both men might provide a worthy bounce to the discussion about performance enhancers. They also might pivot the spotlight away from users and providers toward the sporting consumer — namely, you and me.

Landis is more light than heat, the latest addition to the roster of athletes who vehemently denied using enhancers before eventually 'fessing up, either through the weight of evidence or the burden of conscience.

That he fingered Lance Armstrong as a user and blood doper added buzz, if not credibility, to his own admission.

However, unless Landis pulls a Brian McNamee and produces used syringes and documentation, or unless several of Armstrong's compadres verify his claims, he appears destined to be a cycling "birther" rather than baseball steroid whistleblower Jose Canseco.

Landis' confession also contributes to some level of performance enhancer fatigue, a condition whose seriousness is left to the individual.

Yes, tell me, because tedious as these periodic disclosures are, they're necessary to evaluate performers and performance. Or, enough already, just play the game.

That leads to Galea's case, which is far meatier and possesses a greater chance to move the needle, so to speak, in the discussion of drugs and treatment.

While Galea may not be the "pioneer in sports medicine" that former NFL tough guy and admitted juicer Bill Romanowski called him, his problems with the U.S. legal system appear to be more administrative than medical.

Galea, who isn't licensed to practice medicine in the States, was charged by U.S. officials with drug smuggling, conspiracy, lying to federal agents, unlawful distribution of human growth hormone and introducing an unapproved drug into interstate commerce.

He administers the quite legal and supposedly cutting-edge practice of platelet-rich plasma treatment to athletes, most notably Tiger Woods. He also has treated Alex Rodriguez and a handful of others.

Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss' name has been linked to Galea, whose assistant was caught at the U.S.-Canadian border last September with banned drugs, syringes and medical supplies and reportedly was on her way to Washington, D.C.

It's unclear if Moss used HGH, but if it's established that he did, he faces a suspension by the NFL for using a banned substance.

Galea has administered HGH, but his lawyers insist — as you knew they would — that he did nothing wrong and treated athletes only to heal injuries, not to gain advantages.

That's where Galea's case spins away from, say, Victor Conte and BALCO, whose clients were looking for rocket fuel.

Fans and the marginally engaged haven't been asked to do a lot of heavy lifting during the steroid era. Perameters were set for us. If athletes used, they were dirty. Period. Nice and neat. Black and white. No gray.

Except it's not that simple. It's rather hypocritical for the most pharmacologically dependent society in the history of the planet — "Ask your doctor if (fill in the blank) is right for you" — to moralize about the evils of drug use among athletes in one breath and pop an Adderal in the next.

At some point, administrators and fans are going to have to address gradations of drug use — where to draw the line between treatment and abuse.

Doctors routinely prescribe drugs to patients that would raise red flags and get professional athletes smeared and suspended. Where's the fairness in that?

That discussion leads to a larger question: What do we want from professional sports?

Warriors and gladiators performing remarkable feats, no matter the ingredients? Or virtuous athletes whose bodies are above reproach?

Means, or end?

This isn't a defense of performance enhancers or drug use. Cheaters and those seeking an edge through pharmacology should be outed and disciplined.

Those who take advantage of readily accepted practices and substances purely for health and recovery shouldn't be stigmatized.

The days of elite athletes reaching and maintaining their potential solely through conditioning and nutrition are long gone.

But you already knew that.

Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at dfairbank@dailypress.com


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